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Whitmer, Gilchrist target racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths

In the early days of tracking COVID-19 data based on race, Black people made up 29.4% of cases and 40.7% of deaths.
Credit: Governor's Office
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.

LANSING, Mich — New data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) regarding COVID-19 and communities of color were highlighted Monday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.

According to a news release from the state, Black residents only make up 15% of Michigan’s population. However, in the early days of tracking COVID-19 data based on race, Black people made up 29.4% of cases and 40.7% of deaths.

The implementation of the Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, along with the Rapid Response Grant program, has helped the state target racial disparities in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the past two weeks of available data, Black residents made up 8.2% of cases and 9.9% of deaths, thus showing progress in limiting the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, according to the state.

“The work of the Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, spearheaded by Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist, has helped us dramatically reduce the number of African Americans who have been impacted by COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “We are not out of the woods yet and must continue to do our part to save lives and protect our brave frontline workers.”

The task force was created to study the causes of racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19 and to recommend actions to address those disparities.

Since its implementation, the task force has facilitated the following actions, as provided by the state:

  • Distributing large quantities of masks to the public;
  • Launching a strategic communications and social media effort targeting communities of color;
  • Collaborating with regional racial disparity task forces to share data and recommendations for additional actions;
  • Increasing access to coronavirus testing in communities of color through drive-thru, walk-up, and mobile testing sites.

“We have reason to be proud of the hard work and progress made to reduce the disparate impact of COVID-19 on Black people,” said Gilchrist. “However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are still in the midst of a pandemic that continues to take the lives of our friends and family. We still have work to do to tackle generations of racial disparities and inequality to ensure that all Michiganders can lead happy and healthy lives.

And, more than anything else, we need to keep the Governor’s emergency measures in place to limit the spread of this virus, which we know causes disproportionate harm among people of color who start out in a more vulnerable position.”

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